Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Is There No Balm in Gilead?

An excerpt from Michael Hopkins' blog, From Glory to Glory:

Having just stated the ways in which they feel the Church must continue to violate our dignity (how, in our tradition, could withholding the public celebration of our relationships and prohibiting our share in all aspects of the church’s ministry be thought of as anything other than a violation of our dignity?), the bishops then promise to oppose violating our dignity. That violates our dignity.

And then,

We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God's children, including gay and lesbian persons, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ's Church.

But we are not full participants in the life of the church. You yourselves have just said so.This gap between word and deed, reality and wishful thinking, is untenable. It is monstrous in how easily it seems to have been perpetrated. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain! Wishful thinking is reality because we say so!

Two sentences would have been a balm in the form of some sense of honesty and compassion.

To the first sentence quoted above could have been added, “We believe this journey we are on as a Communion is itself a journey toward making that dignity a reality in our own midst."

And to the second, "We offer our profound apology to our lesbian and gay sisters and brothers that we continue to fall short of this Gospel."

That's it. You see, the gift lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons have been giving the church for the past thirty five years is honesty. It is something that the church has always struggled to keep at the heart of its message and mission. This has never been a surprise because honesty is hard for religious people who want to believe they can make themselves right, convincing God to love them. Jesus taught us that.

The church has had a tough time admitting it is a flawed, human institution and therefore solely dependent on Gods’ grace for its very existence, much less its salvation.We have been trying to teach you that honesty is the most painful thing in the world,and the only thing that can save us, because dishonesty is fundamentally the spiritual denial of grace itself.

Honesty is the balm in Gilead.

Please stop telling us things you think you want us to hear and start telling us,yourselves, and the world the truth. It really will set us all free.

But hear this clearly, a dishonest church is a dying church. Where there is no balm,the people perish. A word of truth and a word of compassion will not only be our comfort. It will be our resurrection.



Christopher said...

Rev. Russell,

Sounds similar to the letter I wrote to our bishops.

Anonymous said...

a dishonest church is a dying church.

Sadly, he is completely wrong about that. The record shows that dishonest churches are growing churches.

Think of all the churches that say the Bible is inerrant. They grow.

Think of all the churches that deny modern science - evolution, ancient earth, you name it. They're growing.

Think of the Catholic Church's manner of dealing with the clergy abuse scandal. Was that honest? Nope. They're growing anyway.

Look at the Mormon Church, with all it does to cover up and sanitize its history. Their claims are utterly provably false, and their apologists spin, spin, spin. And yet, they're twice as big as the Episcopal Church, at least. They're growing.

If anything, the Episcopal Church is dying because it is too honest for its own good.


Jake said...

Very helpful, Susan.


JimB said...


I fear you have a point. A church that plays to prejudice will sell to the prejudiced. "They have their reward."


I said and wrote that B033 was betrayal and that the PB and HoB had proved themselves willing to sacrifice lesbian and gay people to maintain their institutional standing. They have dissapointed by making my point. I think I shall weep, not something 61 year old straight guys do often....


Anonymous said...

I note an Australian Associated Press (27 Sep 07) report that the head of the Anglican Church in Australia, the Most Revd Dr Philip Aspinall, Archbishop of Brisbane (who was the press spokesman for the Dar Es Salaam meeting) has welcomed the US Bishops' response.

"I believe that the House of Bishops has responded positively to all the requests put to them by the primates in our Dar es Salaam communique. Certainly they have responded to the substance of those requests. I would now like the time to undertake careful analysis of the House of Bishops response, but my initial reaction based both on my preliminary reading of the document itself and on my first-hand conversations with many of the Bishops involved is that the house has responded positively to the substance of all the requests made by the primates."

Plainly the willingness of the US bishops to limit the role played by gay and lesbian people in the life of their Church is at odds with their affirmation that they "proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God's children, including gay and lesbian persons, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ’s Church."

That said, the US church has done more than any other Anglican/Episcopal church to affirm gay and lesbian people, which should be acknowledged and applauded. The American bishops have done all in their power (a power limited by the polity of their Church) to bring oneness in Christ. Those who say it is not enough may do as they please.

Mike in Texas said...

That is what angered me about the bishops' statement. Even though I find the status quo intolerable, I think I would have been reasonably satisified with their statement, given the nature of TEC's process, if only they had been honest about what they have done to us and continue to do.

I seem to have a thing about lies. I don't react well when someone lies to me, even if they're wearing a pretty purple outfit.

Muerk said...


The Catholic abuse scandal was pretty much a Western phenomena, particularly America. I don't thing Catholicism is growing in the West. I do think there is renewal in the younger part of the Church but that's a global thing, (imo) fueled by things like World Youth Day.

Anonymous said...

Rev. Susan,

I am a Gay man with a seven year old son . My father is 73. The three of us share a home together and my father is helping me to raise my son. We were all members of the Roman Catholic Church until last May when we began attending Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis. Christ Church is the seat of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri. Christ Church is also an Oasis congregation which specifically welcomes GLBT people into its parish family. I cannot fully describe the joy and peace that we have found at Christ Church. For the first time in my life I am part of a church which not only fully accepts me and loves me but also fully accepts my sexuality. Actually, my sexuality at Christ Church is a none issue. At Christ Church we have Gay and Lesbian Priests and Deacons who are out and have partners. Our bishop attended The St. Louis Pride Fest in June and stayed for several hours at The Episcopal Church's Pride Fest booth. Contrast this with my experience in the Roman Catholic Church in which for years I heard the Pope and the bishops tell me that my sexuality is disordered, ANY physical expression of my sexuality is intrinsically evil, that my family is not real and that I am doing violence to my son by raising him. I also knew that if I dared to bring a boyfriend or a partner to Mass on a regular basis, that I would not only be barred from continuing to serve as a Eucharistic Minister, but I would be condemned as a public sinner and excommunicated. For the first time in my father's life his son no longer has to abide by an ecclesiastical, don't ask, don't tell, policy. Rev. Susan, I cannot tell you how happy and thankful we are to have found a branch of the Holy Catholic Church, the Ancient Church, which fully accepts and loves us. I read the Bishop's Statement from New Orleans on Episcope as soon as it came out. I was disappointed with it. However, there is no comparision to what the Episcopal Bishops said in their statement and the outright hostility that I recieved as a Gay man from the Pope and Roman Catholic Bishops for years. In answer to the question, "Why would any Gay person want to be a Christian?", I would say because of Jesus Christ and his great love for us, which he demonstrated in his life, death, and glorious resurrection. My family has seen and experienced the love of Christ in the people of Christ Church Cathedral and the Episcopal Church. I was proud when my son received his First Holy Communion on Pentecost Sunday in The Episcopal Church and my father and I will be very proud when we are received into the Anglican Communion at Christ Church Cathedral next Spring. Thanks for listening.

In Christ,

Greg Lynch

Anonymous said...

HONESTY!! What a concept!

But now, shouldn't we dishonest about the fact that promiscuity is the only constant in gay relationships and that there are 25 diseases that are epidemic among them. You really don't mean that we should stop deleting these things from our blogs? Say it ain't so!

Perry Lee said...

Sorry Muerk . . .

NEW YORK (AP) - The Assemblies of God, the Mormon church and the Roman Catholic Church were the fastest-growing major denominations in the United States last year . . . The Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal church, grew 1.81 percent to just under 2.8 million members. And the Catholic Church, by the far the largest denomination in the United States, grew .83 percent to 67.8 million parishioners.
Only three mainline Protestant churches remain among the 10 biggest denominations in the country. The United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., stayed in the top 10 despite experiencing declines in membership last year.

The Methodists ranked third, with about 8.2 million members. The Evangelical Lutherans Ranked seventh, with nearly 4.9 million people. And the Presbyterians ranked ninth with just under 3.2 million congregants.

The Southern Baptist Convention remains the largest U.S. Protestant group, with 16.3 million members. It is the second-largest denomination in the country, behind the Catholic Church.

MarkBrunson said...

Thank you for showing us how to "dishonest," Anonymous!

What clowns!